4 Ways to Restore Respect in School Fundraisers

Discover how to turn school fundraising into a positive experience for your parents and your community

There are many reasons why fundraising is sometimes called a ‘necessary evil’. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to do it? Let’s face it, people don’t like having to ask their friends and family to buy stuff. Planning and running a sale is hard work for everyone involved. To make matters even worse, you have to do it all over again once the money runs out.

But school fundraisers shouldn’t just be about the money. You can implement the best promotional plan, have a great product to sell, and promote an exciting prize program for your students. All of this can translate into higher profits. But if profit is all your focusing on, you’re leaving some important stuff out.

How people perceive you and your sale is just as important as the results you’re trying to achieve. Yes, the money is going to be important. But you don’t want to come across like a bull in a china cabinet. It’s like a salesman who’s only concerned about getting the business than keeping it. There’s a reason those types never last.

The same is true with school fundraising. How you introduce your sale, and how often you plan to have one are things you should also think about. If done properly, people will be more receptive to what you’re trying to accomplish.

Here are 4 things you can do that can help you put your well-intended fundraiser in a positive light in the eyes of your parents, as well as your community.

1. Give Parents a Heads Up

A big pet peeve. Students come home excited after the kickoff and bombard their parents with their fundraising packet. No advanced warning. Of course, everyone’s going to have a different reaction. Some will participate because it’s their child’s school, while others will reluctantly feel obligated because little Johnny wants a certain prize.

Instead, let your parents know about what’s coming, and when to expect it. Send a notice home in your students backpack, post it on social media, and announce it at your back to school meeting. And just as important, tell them why the school needs to raise money. Justification is as important as anything. If people can understand and relate to the need, they’ll be more apt to support it.

So communicate your purpose up front. When you advertise your sale in advance, you might just help create some anticipation and excitement.

And if you’re a sponsor who works with high school students, inform them from the beginning that they'll be expected to help the group raise money. This way they won’t be caught off guard.

2. Set a Limit on School Fundraisers

This is probably one of the biggest reason people don’t participate in fundraising. People have learned to expect to be inundated. So why should they participate in your second sale when they already know there’s even another one after that? There are times when more is not always better.

Unfortunately, many sponsors are forced to do multiple fundraisers because they don’t do well enough on their previous sale. There are several reasons for this; however, one big one, is perception.

If you have a reputation for doing lots of sales, you're not going to get as good of a response. At best, parents will feel obligated to choose between sales. And worse, many will make the decision to sit them all out. This is obviously not the response that you want. Instead, you're better off limiting yourself to 1 or 2 fundraisers over the course of the school year.

At the beginning of the year, make a promise to your parents that no matter what the results are, you will only have 1 or 2 sales. Tell them that you won’t have a second sale if you reach your goal with the first one. And if you fall short on the first one, then you will have a second one to fall back on.

If you still don’t reach it after the second sale, then you just live with it. Understand that no matter what, you're going to have to keep your word. And it won’t be easy.

Case in point. We had a school that was doing multiple sales a year. About 15 years ago they decided to try this approach. As their sales grew, they went from 2 fundraisers down to 1, and for the past 10 years, they’ve been averaging about $70,000 in sales. And the parents are happy because they know what to expect.

On the other hand, if you still plan to have multiple sales, consider incorporating fundraising diversity.

3. Keep Your Incentive Promises

Limiting fundraisers is one example. Here’s another, and unfortunately we hear about this too often. Some sponsors make big incentive promises in order to get students to make more sales, and then not keep them. So why does this happen? One reason is their sale ends up not doing as well as they’d hoped. Do they think their students and parents will just forget about it? If you promise an activity or special prize, stick with it, regardless of your outcome.

This is a recipe for failure because your students and parents will lose faith in you and your fundraiser. Can you blame them for not wanting to participate in your next campaign?

Worse yet, students will talk to others about their experience. So even if you don’t raise enough money, find the money somewhere and make it happen. This may even help your next sale because students will see what their peers got to experience. You always have the option of not offering it again.

Improve fundraising sales without using money

4. Reinforce Fundraising Courtesy

Because your students are out in the community, be sure to stress the importance of politeness regardless of the outcome. Tell your students to always inform people what organization they represent and why they are selling before they introduce their brochure.

By valuing integrity as much as success, you'll do your part to ensure that school fundraisers send a positive message.

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